I have some updates to share about both mammograms and monarch butterflies, but first, a happy announcement. The judges for the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund have awarded me a grant to afford me time to work on my book-in-progress, One Canary Sings. The fund bequeaths small grants to feminists in the arts, and I am honored and energized by this vote of confidence.
Now, on to the latest from the world of mammograms. Two years ago, in “Exposed: The Mammogram Myth and the Pinkwashing of America,” I quoted the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) as saying, “I’m admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated”—but it wasn’t till this past October that the ACS adjusted its mammogram recommendations. No longer are they recommending that women start screening at forty. Instead, they urge women to start at 45 and continue annually until 54 and then every other year after that.
This news was met with the excitement and accolades of many. So why was I so under-enthused?
Well, six years earlier, in 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task force—a panel of experts in evidence-based medicine—recommended that women wait to start screening until they had reached fifty, and get a mammogram every two years after that up until the age of seventy-four, thereby cutting radiation exposure by about two-thirds and the risk of overdiagnosis nearly in half.
In other words, the American Cancer Society didn’t go far enough. If you’d like to learn more about conflicts of interest in the cancer industry, read my essay.
Also in October, Time ran an eye-opening article, “Why Doctors Are Rethinking Breast-Cancer Treatment,” which examines the growing movement toward taking a “wait and see” attitude when it comes to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is also known as Stage 0 breast cancer (as in, not necessarily cancer at all).
In other good news, the monarch butterfly population appears to be rebounding. US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says that the US is working to reintroduce milkweed—which is critical to the monarchs’ migration—on 1160 square miles of land over the next five years, both by planting it and by designating pesticide-free areas.
I’ve got several essays in the works. One is about a stolen fuchsia, two escaped murderers, and a social worker (me) grappling with the concepts of guilt and innocence. Another is about my obsessive love of sugar and the holes it could not fill. And another is about my irrational fear of sharks—even in the river where I swim every summer.
I’ll let you know when they’ve found homes.
This blog has sat dormant for a time, but now it has metamorphosed into a shiny new website, where you can find the One Canary Sings blog, news and updates, and a portfolio of all of my publications. If you are one of my longtime subscribers, I hope you will check it out. If you are one of my new subscribers, welcome!